Capitals Offensive GVT: 18.6
Capital Defensive GVT: 8.4
Capitals Goalie GVT: 6.6
Capitals Total GVT: 39.0
Rangers Offensive GVT: 29.6
Rangers Defensive GVT: 10.1
Rangers Goalie GVT: 17.8
Rangers Total GVT: 60.0
As expected, the duo of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for the Capitals led the way in the opening round against the Islanders. But their key was the added depth of scoring, seeing Evgeny Kuznetsov pot three goals, Jason Chimera adding production with four points deeper in the lineup, and even Karl Alzner adding two goals on the back-end. These complements to the talents in Ovi and Backstrom are what can make the Capitals so dangerous offensively.
While they could not hold steady their league-best powerplay production from the regular season (converting at a rate of 15.4% in their seven-game series in round one), the Caps were still stellar with the special teams as they posted a 100% penalty kill number, killing all 14 minor penalties against. If they can keep it up, this will bode well for them moving on to face the Rangers who went 3 for 20 on the PP in their first round series.
A promising stat moving forward for Washington is their save percentage; the Caps saw a .923 5v5 save percentage from Braden Holtby in round one, which is very similar to what they received all season. Holtby was able to hang in there and give the Caps strength to overcome the Islanders attack, getting an impressive road overtime win in game four that practically saved them the series.
One thing that the Caps need to address is consistency. While posting an average possession number in the regular season, Washington was on a roller-coaster ride in their first round series against the Islanders. Peaking at 61.7% and hitting a low of 42.9%, the 5v5 CF% of the Capitals must be better if they want to keep up with the Presidents Trophy winning Rangers. While it is a small sample size, their sporadic play must be addressed heading into the Conference Semi-Finals.
The added scoring depth for the Captials must stay hot in order for the offensive unit to be productive for Washington. The Rangers will most definitely key on the dynamic duo of Ovechkin and Backstrom, likely matching the pairing of McDonagh and Girardi against them. If the aforementioned contributions from deeper lineup guys and non-traditional scorers stall, the Capitals might have their hands full.
The Captials shooting percentage in all situations in the first round was 7.2%, far below their 9.8% regular season mark. With King Henrik in the pipes at the other end of the ice, the Capitals must work to control scoring chances against the Rangers (they had 49.5% of all scoring chances against the Islanders). Shot quality might not be quantifiable quite yet but it is very real, and the Capitals may have problems producing offensively if they cannot generate quality chances.
New York Strengths
This series may end up being a battle of the special teams. As mentioned, the Capitals have a very strong powerplay, which may have sputtered in the first round, but will get going in time. The Rangers, however, killed penalties at 84.6% against the Penguins in their five games, going 100% while on the road (and 84.4% on the season, good for fifth in the league). The shot-blocking machine of Dan Girardi may pose problems for the Ovechkin one-timer as well, as the d-man blocked 23 shots in only five games against Pittsburgh and was sixth in the league during the regular season.
The one thing the Rangers will need in order to make another deep run this season is Henrik Lundqvist’s goaltending. The netminder posted a first round 5v5 save percentage of .944, which is a full percentage point greater than last year’s playoffs and this year’s regular season. With the offensive abilities from the Capitals, who are fortunately shooting a rate lower than the typically do, look for the Swede to be the difference if the Rangers want to move on
New York Weaknesses
The Rangers are not a great possession team. They typically find themselves in their own end a lot, relying on special teams and rush opportunities to gain an advantage. The Capitals will look to exploit this and make the most of their zone time, that’s for sure. For the Rangers to be less reliant on a brilliant goaltending performance, they will need to turn around the possession decline they have been on since about the beginning of March. But it will not be easy against a Washington squad that saw rather dominant possession performances at times against the Islanders in the first round.
Rick Nash was almost invisible in the first round versus the Penguins and must improve for the Rangers to continue to see offensive successes in round two. With only one goal in five games, New York had to rely on the likes of Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider, and Kevin Hayes to get wins against the struggling yet offensively-talented Pittsburgh Penguins. Nash recorded 18 shots in the Rangers five games, which is a slight positive, but his one goal led to a shooting percentage of 5.6%. Along with Nash, the Rangers need the veteran likes of Nash, Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle, and Dominic Moore to lead to way just in case their young talents up front go dry.
The play by period needs to be noted for the Rangers. In their five games against the Penguins, they allowed five goals in the second period. Considering that they only allowed eight goals total, this may pose a problem. Washington is very talented throughout the entire ice and the Rangers will need to be tight defensively from puck drop to the final buzzer if they want to keep Ovechkin and the crew under wraps.
Both teams seem to rely on goaltending to a decent extent, making it tough to call who will falter first. The Rangers have Lundqvist, so I give them the edge there. Both teams look to be fairly good on special teams, with stellar powerplays and penalty kills. For one simple reason, I give the Capitals the edge here: Alex Ovechkin.
Although the Rangers typically do not post good possession numbers, I feel as though their defensive unit has a great chance of shutting down the Capitals. With McDonagh, Girardi, Boyle, Marc Staal, and Keith Yandle, New York’s defensive unit has shut-down written all over it. The young forwards for New York continue to dazzle as well, and I feel that Brassard, Hagelin, and Stepan will continue to perform at high levels while Nash finds his scoring touch again.
I have the Rangers taking the series in six games.